6 steps to creating a hybrid integration strategy

Shutterstock image (by ra2studio): young businessman looking at a cloud concept wall.

Agencies are adopting cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications at increasing rates. Many are simultaneously moving existing applications and systems to public and/or private cloud infrastructures, making hybrid IT environments the new standard.

When designing a hybrid integration strategy, there are many things to consider, and understanding the important integration challenges of evolving to a hybrid IT environment is crucial.

Below are six essential steps for creating a successful hybrid integration strategy:

1. Understand your integration "center of gravity." One of the first things to consider is where to host your integration tools and technology. Consider your "center of gravity" -- the locations of the systems you have today, including strategic systems of record. When agencies only have a few cloud applications or applications that cannot easily be moved to the cloud for data security or regulation purposes, they are best left on-premises with connectivity to the cloud.

Cloud-only solutions are best for organizations that don't have many legacy investments. Hybrid solutions make sense for agencies that do have many legacy on-premises applications but are adopting new applications and infrastructure primarily via the cloud.

2. Determine how much control and responsibility you want or need. An agency's motivation for adopting new cloud services will often answer the question of control and responsibility. Private/public cloud integration provides the most control but requires maintenance and upgrades similar to on-premises applications. Managed cloud integration offloads hosting and maintenance to a third party, reducing the amount of hands-on management required by your organization but also limiting the control and flexibility available.

Hybrid cloud involves a cloud-based integration service, such as an integration platform as a service, that incorporates cloud-based applications with on-premises integration technologies, such as an enterprise service bus. The approach offers continued control over integrations, reduces maintenance and upgrade responsibilities, lowers the cost of re-engineering existing integration investments, provides faster time to integration and automatically scales based on transactions running through the system.

3. Know your users. Agencies are changing their approaches so individual departments can gain more control over their own integration projects. "Citizen integrators" are typically non-IT employees who are responsible for the implementation of departmental SaaS applications. For those users, integration tools must be easy to use, provide a more consumer-friendly interface and not require an understanding of advanced integration architecture and concepts.

In contrast, traditional integration developers play a key role in integration projects that are mission-critical and require specialized knowledge and skills, such as designing integration architectures and plans. It is important that the solution of choice satisfy this bimodal development.

4. Plan how to keep up with project demands. As the number of SaaS applications increases, so do the demands and complexity of integration projects. Using existing integration assets -- such as services, maps, transformations and orchestrations -- is the simplest way to keep up with demand.

Another option is to think of the IT shop's role as a service provider. It could give departments the ability to do the integration work themselves by establishing common architectures, services, access and tools for integration projects and then making them available.

5. Use a flexible approach for different types of projects. Because projects have varying levels of urgency, agencies should consider providing an integration tool for simpler, faster delivery schedules. For instance, IT application development could offer one mode for traditional, complex integration projects that demand stability, planning, testing, governance and architectural review -- usually mission-critical projects. The other mode could serve projects that require fast, agile development and often have a short lifespan.

Application programming interfaces are another approach that might make sense for constructing new services and tying systems together, and they give non-integration specialists the tools to integrate applications while eliminating the need for specialized skill sets.

6. Consider how you will ensure data quality for your systems of record. Changes in who develops integrations and which approaches you take to build integrations have the potential to introduce risk, particularly regarding how your data is protected from corruption caused by developers who do not have the right level of knowledge about your systems of record.

Only authorized users should have access to application data, and proper governance and controls are essential for mitigating risk and maintaining compliance policies. One method is to document your integration processes and best practices with the goal of mitigating any risk that could be introduced into your environment.

By developing a hybrid integration strategy, agencies will position themselves to meet the needs of IT integration developers and empower non-integration specialists with self-service tools to solve integration projects quickly.

Are you ready to get started on building an integration strategy for the future?

About the Author

Nelson de la Cruz is a senior solutions architect at Software AG Government Solutions.


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